By WT Cox
“The Baton is Passed.”
On May 22, 2021, North Carolina Bluegrass fans were saddened to learn that Tommy Edwards had died. Tommy was a founding member of The Bluegrass Experience, a prolific songwriter and lightning-fast guitarist whose vigorous down strokes imbued his songs with power and tone, earning him World Champion Guitarist trophies at the 1970 and ’71 Union Grove Fiddler’s Convention. Tommy Edwards was also known as the “voice of Bluegrass” from his hosting of his weekly radio show “Bluegrass Saturday Night” on Life 103.1 FM. Tommy hosted the show for over 16 years, and now Bluegrass Saturday Night continues with “new” host and musician Julie Brown.
Julie is the wife of Stan Brown, who is regarded as one of the best banjo pickers in Bluegrass. She currently plays bass with two bluegrass bands: The Bluegrass Experience and her own band, Hindsight Bluegrass. Julie continues with the tradition started by Tommy Edwards in selecting the best bluegrass and interesting stories for her listeners to enjoy. The hours of the show has changed from the old 7-9 slot to 6-8PM and you still hear some of the best and talented bluegrass ever recorded. Julie likes to mix up the selection of music she plays… from traditional and original artist to new and progressive bluegrass. Each week she features a “Funky Feature, Off the Wall” segment where she highlights different approaches to bluegrass music. On one segment she featured a Bee Gee’s song performed by traditional bluegrass artist Bobby Osborne. Nothing is off limits as to what style of bluegrass Julie will use on her show, but you can always count on hearing some old time classics and traditional songs, with a mix of new sounds. If you love Bluegrass Music, then Saturday Night Bluegrass is a show to look forward to each week. 103.1 FM is a local station, and if you are not in range, the show can be streamed from www.life103.1.com or you can download the life103.1 app.
I asked Julie how she got interested in Bluegrass Music. She said she had always loved Bluegrass music and listened to it growing up. She actually played banjo in a small band with Stan’s dad Odell Brown for three years where they would play a local churches and events. She met her husband Stan for the first time when she visited Nashville to visit family. They were married in 1998 after Stan moved back to Randolph County.
Stan Brown joined the Bluegrass Experience in 2000 after the death of Donald Beane, who was one of the original members. Julie would also fill in with the group from time to time, playing bass. When original member Snuffy Smith retired from the band, Julie became a member of the Bluegrass Experience along with her husband. The band continues to play gigs that were previously booked before Tommy’s death, and also a few new ones too.
Julie also plays bass with her band Hindsight Bluegrass. The band was formed in December of 2017 after a get together with some fellow pickers and friends. They enjoyed playing together so much, the decided to form a group and make it real… and name it. Hindsight Bluegrass is based out of the Ramseur area where they meet for practice and rehearsals. They play at private functions, weddings, barbeque’s, town festivals and concerts. Stan Brown plays banjo and sings harmony and Julie plays bass. Scott Hancock, a Randolph County native, plays guitar and sings most of the lead and harmony vocals. Fiddlin’ Al McCanless, a well known potter now living in the Pittsboro area is the fiddle player for the group and also contributes to the vocals. Mike Aldridge from Saxapahaw plays mandolin and also does vocals too. Hindsight Bluegrass has a concert each New Year’s Eve at the Sunset Theater in Asheboro. They also will be at the Farmer’s Day Festival in Robbins on Friday Night, August 5th, and at the Flatwoods Festival in Bennett on September 10th. They have released one CD so far titled simply “2020”. The band website is www.hindsightbluegrass.com. You can also keep up with them on Facebook.
Julie said she remembered when Tommy Edwards started doing the radio show many years ago. “We would always listen to it when we were near a radio”, she said. “Then later we were able to listen on the computer or the app on the phone. During COVID, that was our favorite pastime. We listened to a ton of bluegrass shows while we couldn’t get out and play. We did a lot of fishing at our pond, and I would always try to tune in if we could”. After Tommy passed, Julie was asked to take over the show. She was hesitant at first, and after much persuading, she finally agreed to give it a try. After two months as a “guest host”, she agreed to make it permanent. Julie said, “It’s a lot of fun and I enjoy keeping up with all the new bands and musicians. I love learning a lot more about the early bands and musicians, and of course all the ones in-between.”
Julie has a great resource for her show in her husband Stan Brown. Stan lived in Nashville from 1976 till 1996 when he moved back to Randolph County and married Julie. He was in the middle of playing music on the festival circuit and on the Grand Ol Opry. Stan knew the stories of those years first hand and got to hear them from the early years direct from the “horse’s mouth”, as we say. Julie doesn’t just focus on the early traditional music or just the new recordings… she plays it all. “You could easily hear me play 2 songs back to back that were recorded 70 years apart”, she says. “I do a little research on some of the older ones to find facts and learn things I did not know. A lot of times I just ask Stan for some neat facts about an artist or song”.
Julie says that the radio station likes that she is a musician and have interactions with a lot of musicians and bands. She meets a huge number of them and keeps up with what they are doing. Julie says, “They like to tell their stories about interactions with other musicians on the air. Bluegrass is different from mainstream Country and Rock because the musician all mingle together.” Festivals also bring opportunities for musicians to meet each other and there is almost always a late night jam session going on. When musicians get together or visit, they usually have their instruments. Many times while visiting the Nashville area, a friend would invite over some “pickers” and there would be an impromptu party with lots of music and food. This is where a lot of stories get passed around and new ones started. It’s often how new bands are sparked too. Those are the kinds of stories fans of the bluegrass show like. “So long as I am playing music, I should have an abundance of new stories to tell… and music to share”
Be sure to tune into Julie each and every Saturday Night from 6-8 PM at 103.1 FM for “BLUEGRASS SATURDAY NIGHT”, or listen in at